Email Cover Letters: Five Steps To Getting Yours Read

Email Cover Letters: Five Steps To Getting Yours Read.

Email Cover Letters: Five Steps To Getting Yours Read

First impressions count and, in many cases, your first impression is your email cover letter.  When sending a cover letter via email,  the same rules apply as to a paper cover letter.  If you are answering an ad, make sure your read the instructions posted by the employer/recruiter.  Follow these instructions exactly.  If you don’t, your cover letter might not make it into the company’s system or your email may be eliminated.

Image of Email Cover Letters: Five Steps To Getting Yours ReadWhen you send an email cover letter, consider:

1.  The Subject Line.  It’s important.  Unless noted in an ad, don’t put the job number here or leave it blank.  Market yourself using the job title and a few descriptive words.

2.  The Format.  You should follow the format of a paper cover letter.  Include a salutation using a person’s name, if possible, blank lines between paragraphs, and a format closing with your signature information.

3.  Keep It Simple, Short and Concise.  Most hiring managers scan cover letters and want the pitch delivered quickly – 150 words or less.   Sentences should be short, 40 characters is ideal according to research.

4.  Be Specific.  Highlight your skills/abilities that fit the position.  Use words for the ad or job description.  Keywords are a must.

5.  Send a Test Message.  Email the message to yourself and a friend to make sure the formatting works.

Always doublecheck the spelling of names as well as the whole document for typos or grammar mistakes.  Don’t rely on spell check.  Your cover letter should make the reader go to your resume for more information.

Follow the rules to make a good first impression.

Malaysia Airlines: A Lesson in Crisis Management

Malaysia Airlines: A Lesson in Crisis Management.

Happy Monday!  Interesting article about how  not to deal with a crisis following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.   — Pete E Cento, Cento Marketing Group #CrisisManagement


Malaysia Airlines: A Lesson in Crisis Management

Image of Malaysia Airlines: A Lesson in Crisis ManagementBy David E. Johnson,CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC

If ever an airline has suffered from bad press it is Malaysia Airlines.  The airline has suffered two of the biggest air disasters in history in a period of four months – MH370 (which has yet to be found) and now MH17 shot down by a missile over Ukraine by Russian backed separatists.  Even before these twin disasters, the airline was suffering severe financial losses.  Its crisis response to the disappearance of MH370 was one of the worst in history (with no cohesive communications plan and showing a lack of sympathy for the family members of the lost passengers).  Now with this latest disaster, the questions are can the brand survive and what does it need to do?

Short term, the brand is being helped by the media coverage over the downing of MH17.  The focus is not on Malaysia Airlines but rather on Russia and the separatists who are presumed to have shot it down.  As outrage mounts over the tragedy and the way the Russian backed separatists are allowing access to the wreckage and the victims’ remains, mention of Malaysia Airlines has been in passing.  Also working in the airline’s favor is that with acts of terrorism, most people are willing to focus their attention and anger on the perpetrators rather than the airlines.  For instance after 9/11, neither United Airlines nor American Airlines suffered any brand damage despite the fact that it was their planes that were hijacked.

Additionally, Malaysia Airlines seems to have learned from its mishandling of the MH370 crisis.  This time they promptly revealed all the information they had available when MH17 disappeared.  The airline’s social media carried the same message that was being given officially.  The company also announced that they will be fully refunding anyone who booked a flight on the airline but no longer feels comfortable traveling on it.

So short term, the airline is surviving and has handled the crisis adequately.  Yet the real test for Malaysia Airlines will be in the days and weeks ahead.  As the stories begin to shift from the crisis in the Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, the West’s response to Russia, and such, the focus will shift again to Malaysia Airlines.  All the stories about MH370 will resurface and criticism about the airline will be intense as will scrutiny.

So what should Malaysia Airlines do?

  1. Bring in an outside communications agency to work on the airline’s short-term and long-term branding and crisis response.  The airline has been reluctant to do so and it has shown in some of its responses.
  2. Select a spokesperson that can so empathy and address concerns that consumers and the media have about the airline.  This person needs to show not only the airline’s record of overall safety but how they have taken the concerns about the airline seriously and the steps they are taking to correct these issues.
  3. Malaysia Airlines needs to take out full-page ads in the newspapers in their top markets addressing the latest tragedy, expressing sympathy, and outlining where the airline will go from here.
  4. Having former passengers interviewed and used in promotions expressing their confidence in Malaysia Airlines.  One of the first things I noticed after the downing of MH17 was the support that many former passengers were expressing for the airline.
  5. Having a social media strategy that reinforces the message that is being given in the traditional media.

Malaysia Airlines is in an unenviable position.  It will take a strong cohesive crisis communications strategy and branding effort to change public perception but it can be done.  Don’t write off Malaysia Airlines just yet.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content

The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content.

Happy Tuesday!  Informative article by Susan Young, CEO Get in Front Communications, Inc about how to clean up your writing in three easy ways.   — Pete Cento, Cento Marketing Group, 07-15-14


The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content

Image of The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your ContentBy Susan Young, CEO,  Get in Front Communications, Inc.

Here’s an unscientific poll that I want to share with you.

More than 80% of people who write press releases, blog posts, bylined articles, and white papers admit they struggle with how to edit content.

I’m happy to offer a few suggestions on how to approach the editing process:

Image of The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your ContentWrite the main purpose on the back of a business card. In one or two sentences, summarize the reason you are writing. This brings clarity, which (usually) leads to brevity. If your purpose is too long for the business card, rip it up and start again. It must be clear in your mind before you begin to write.

Dissect your words and sentences. Slowly read each sentence, one at a time. Then read the next one. If you removed one of the sentences, would your story change? Each sentence must build off of the previous one, adding value to your story. This practice can significantly shorten your content and change the flow of your message. Translation: Cut the crap.

Consider your reader. Your word count will drop when you remove self-serving information that will be irrelevant–or annoying–to your audience. And don’t bother with jargon or rhetoric. Write to offer solutions to your reader’s challenges. Solve, don’t sell.

Finally, the words ‘very’ and ‘that’ should be used sparingly, if at all.

 About the Author: Susan Young is an award-winning news, social media, PR, and communications professional with 26 years of experience.  Her new book, The Badass Book of Social Media and Business Communication” [Kindle Edition] was recently released.  She works with organizations that want to use digital platforms to increase their visibility, credibility, and revenues. Susan’s company, Get in Front Communications, provides consulting and coaching on all things communication. Her latest accomplishment: Being named one of the ’75 Badass Women on Twitter.’(@sueyoungmedia)

Eight AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press Releases

Eight AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press Releases.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of PR tips tied  the AP style guidelines. To read “PR Pros, Journalists Tackle Latest AP Stylebook,” click here.

Image of Eight AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press ReleasesBy Luke O’Neill, Editor, Business Wire

Associated Press style has been in the news recently, at least for journalists and public relations professionals, after announcing a rash of controversial changes. As you know, it is important for PR, IR, marketing and communication professionals stay abreast of AP style, and its iterations, so you can relate to the media on their level, write cleaner press releases, increase message adoption, and simply sound cool.

Of course, you must consider the style preferences of your company or clients, but you also have an obligation to the media – the end user – to craft a well-written story. With that said, we at Business Wire see our share of AP style blunders in press releases. Here are eight of the most common style bloopers to avoid:

  1. Image of Eight AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press ReleasesCapitalizing job titles after a person’s name – a no-no… AP recommends that you onlycapitalize a title used before a person’s name, not after. The AP’s titles entry is long but worth a look since this is such a common element found in press releases.
  2. Dates and times – eliminate redundancies. Too often, we see dates written as “Wednesday, June 4, 2014” when writing simply “June 4” would suffice. Also, write dates as “June 4” and not “June 4th “ and times as “9:30 a.m.” and not AM. Always be careful with EDT vs. EST; simply using ET is a nice failsafe.
  3. Trademark symbols – avoid them. Trademarks and other symbols are not, and actually never have been, meant for use in PR and news copy. Remove these symbols to make it easier for reporters to utilize your releases.
  4. Percent vs. % – in most cases, spell it out. Standard AP style suggests you write out “percent” in news releases, while utilizing the % symbol in tabular information such as financial tables.
  5. Entitled vs. Titled – Can you spot the difference here?  The survey was titled “Top 100 AP Style Gaffes.” Let’s just say you’re entitled to make a few mistakes, just not AP style mistakes. In short, do not use “entitled” to refer to the title of something.
  6. Acronyms come later – when referring to organizations: Do not put an acronym in parentheses after the first reference to the organization. Easily recognizable acronyms, by themselves, can be used on second reference without spelling out the organization’s name a second time.
  7. The dreaded –ly – avoid hyphenating these words: Do not hyphenate a compound modifier when using adverbs that end in-ly, such as commercially-available products. The correct style is commercially available products, no hyphen.
  8. Write it out – don’t use shortcuts when referring to numbers: As the AP points out, spell out numerals one through nine and use figures for 10 or above.

Looking to create a stronger relationship with today’s journalists?  Correcting these small mistakes in your press releases will help reporters and other key constituents read, adapt and share your news.

About the Author:  Luke O’Neill, formerly a newspaper reporter and copy editor, is an editor at Business Wire Boston. He has nearly 15 years of communications experience and a master’s degree in journalism. 

CEOs Under Attack? A Lesson in Corporate Communications from GM & Apple.

CEOs Under Attack? A Lesson in Corporate Communications from GM & Apple.

Editor’s Note:  With media focus on GM CEO Mary Barra and Apple CEO Tim Cook, CommPRO reached out to our community to get their commentary about diversity in the c-suite.  

By David E. Johnson,CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC

First it was Matt Lauer on The Today Show asking General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra if she could handle being a mother and CEO and was she selected as the CEO of General Motors because the company wanted a “maternal presence”.  Next it was Apple’s Tim Cook on CNBC, being publicly outed as a gay man.  The social media response towards the media was that of outrage and disgust with these incidents.  Yet in both incidents the media stood by the interviews.

Why is this?  What should corporate communicators learn by this and put into practice in response?

The first question is easy to answer.  Despite strides made by women and minorities, the corporate boardroom is still largely dominated by white men whose ages range from the 50s to the 60s.  The corporate mindset is to not shake things up and interviews are about the company not about the CEO’s personal life.  Likewise despite the transformation in America regarding the LGBT community, the corporate boardroom remains largely untouched in this category.  Yet this is changing, as is the concept that a CEO’s personal life is largely not part of a company’s story.

Image of CEOs Under Attack?  A Lesson in Corporate Communications from GM & Apple.This is no longer true.  Consumers are buying the story of a brand and also that of the storyteller – the CEO.  Consumers expect not only to know the brand message but also the story of the CEO, President, or Chairman of the Board who communicates the brand message.  This means all aspects of a CEO’s life is subject to media scrutiny.  Additionally, as this happens those who do not fit the corporate stereotype of old will find they are under greater media interrogation.

Is this fair?  No.  But it is the nature of our society, with a far more intrusive media operating, 24/7, social media, and citizen journalists with blogs.

Corporate communicators need to understand this changing dynamic and help affect a change in the corporate culture of companies.  Corporations need to recognize that society has changed.  The fact that a woman can be both a CEO and mother is no different than a male being both a CEO and father.  Indeed, in this post recession society, many mothers are now the primary wage winner and the father is the stay at home parent.  Corporations need to reflect and understand this dynamic.  As they do, the media questions will begin to change.  But for this to happen, the companies must reflect in their leadership and their culture the changes that are occurring in society.

Executives need to know that their lives will be examined under a microscope.  The best thing to do is address personal issues proactively.  Cook’s sexual preference should never have been outed on a national interview but the better course would have been for Cook to address this long before this, very much as football player, Michael Sam addressed his sexuality.  Sexuality will continue to attract curiosity until corporate cultures reflect the changes we see in society.  For this to happen, corporate communications must work in tandem with the executive leadership in conveying the message and new culture.

Yes, Mary Barra and Tim Cook seemed under attack this past week.  Not because of anything they had done as CEOs but rather because they don’t resemble the CEOs of old, just as America doesn’t reflect the nation it was in the 1990s.  For others who will resemble Cook and Barra, following in their footsteps, the challenge must be to communicate to the media and consumers that it’s a new culture in the boardroom.


 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at